The good vibes are reflected in the record, which has a hushed, almost becalmed atmosphere. Death shadows many of the songs, and at times seems to be taking up residence in Cohen’s voice, reduced now to a ragged croak that even further restricts an already tiny vocal range. (Wisely, he has Robinson sing with him throughout, which considerably sweetens the overall effect.) The lyrics are as mournful as ever. “I’m always alone/And my heart is like ice/And it’s crowded and cold/In my secret life,” Cohen sings in the opening track, sounding like a desolate lounge lizard with an empty glass in his hand. “Here It Is” unfolds to a jaunty little tune, but the words foretell a grim future of illness and death:
Here is your wine, And your drunken fall; And here is your love, Your love for it all.
Here is your sickness, Your bed and your pan; And here is your love For the woman, the man.
May everyone live, And may everyone die. Hello, my love, And my love, goodbye.
“It’s a pretty bleak song,” I told Cohen.
“I would call it, I don’t know, more . . . realistic,” he replied, laughing. Then he poured out two more glasses of aquavit.
Angst & Aquavit by Brendan Bernhard. LA Weekly: September 26, 2001